Governor Newsom calls for cease-fire in Gaza in open letter to CA Muslims and Arabs

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Sunday, March 24, 2024
Newsom calls for cease-fire in Gaza in open letter to Muslims, Arabs
Governor Gavin Newsom has written an open letter to California's Muslim and Arab communities praising the contributions the communities have made.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In an open letter to California's Muslim, Palestinian-American and Arab-American communities, Governor Gavin Newsom writes: California is a better place because of you. The letter acknowledges the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. And calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

"We welcome Governor Newsom's letter, and his spirit of the letter and recognizing and identifying our humanity in this moment. But also, putting his support behind a cease-fire. That goes a long way," says Lara Kiswani. She is the Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, or AROC.

Kiswani says when the Governor of California calls for a cease-fire in Gaza, it's a big deal. It is a sentiment shared by others.

"I appreciated that he emphasized the sense of belonging, the sense of hurt that happens across the world is felt all the way in our multicultural Bay Area," says East Palo Alto Mayor Antonio Lopez, who is Muslim.

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He says the letter also demonstrates how local communities can have a direct impact on global issues, which elected officials are starting to recognize.

"It's been a huge effort to get the governor to this point. And I am grateful that grassroots activism has had some success," says Mayor Lopez.

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In his letter, Newsom praised the communities contributions and achievements in everything from arts and science to business and medicine. He writes, "You form an essential part of California's spirit." Newsom even acknowledged Californians who lost family members in Gaza and the rise in Islamophobia.

"I think the governor is right in talking about how important the Muslim community is to the State of California," says Sunnyvale City Council Member Omar Din.

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Din praises the governor for putting out the letter. But he also points out that Governor Newsom was one of the first U.S. officials to visit Israel after the October 7 Hamas attack. He views this more as the governor shifting his stance as political tides turn.

"We do applaud people who have called for a cease-fire. But at the same time, the governor chose very early on to not to be neutral in this conflict. Nobody was pushing the governor to get involved," says Din. "And I think now that we are really seeing what that has led to, I think the governor is understanding his lack of neutrality and choice not to be neutral is something that needs to be made amends for."

George Bisharat, Emeritus Professor of Law at UC College of the Law in San Francisco, says the letter also reflects a change a tone coming from the Biden Administration.

"For months, large majority of democrats have favored a cease-fire," says Bisharat. "The uncommitted votes, particularly in the swing state of Michigan, but also other states, Washington, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, have really told the democrats that this is a very live issue. And if they don't start moving on it, they are going to pay an electoral price in November."

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Basim Elkarra is the Executive Director of the Sacramento branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. He was part of the community meetings with the governor that lead up to the letter being published.

He says Newsom's letter isn't just words, but that the governor is following up with action.

"He has been sending medical supplies, humanitarian aid, a field hospital to Gaza. He has been trying to help in whatever way he can," explains Elkarra.

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